Volunteer Manager’s Commitment to Community Earns Her an Honorary Doctorate
Maria Hidalgo takes service seriously, and she views her job in no uncertain terms.
“What I do for VITAS is a blessing,” she says.
As a volunteer services manager for VITAS, Maria oversees volunteer operations and community relations in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, Florida. She pairs the right volunteers with the patients who need them most, and she ensures the most vulnerable populations in her neighborhood have the information and means necessary to obtain hospice care.
But once she clocks out, Maria heads right back to work in her community, educating minority groups, connecting isolated individuals with healthcare services and making her tiny corner of the world a more enjoyable place for everyone.
Maria doesn’t do this work–much of it unpaid–for recognition. But that doesn’t stop her from earning accolades in a very special way.
The Trinity Theological Seminary of South Florida awarded Maria with an honorary doctorate degree for “contributions to mankind through [her] professional work and community service,” according to a letter from the school.
A Community Takes Notice
The honorary doctorate, conferred in a graduation ceremony on May 25, isn’t Maria’s first official recognition. In fact, it’s closer to her 20th.
For more than a decade, Maria has garnered accolades from state- and national-level organizations for her community service, including:
- 2015 Lion of the Year Award from the Hialeah-Pan American Lions Club
- 2012 Latina of the Year Award from the Minority Chamber of Commerce
To print the rest of the list would take more space than the average curriculum vitae.
“My career…has given me the privilege to work and volunteer in many special places with very special people for diverse causes.”
Most of these accolades were awarded throughout Maria’s 14-year career with VITAS, during which she’s risen from sales representative to community liaison to her current managerial position.
She recalls one of her previous managers at VITAS advising that she cut back on putting in so much work after hours: “You have to learn to say no.”
Maria’s response? “Take advantage of this now, while I don’t have a marriage or kids,” she said.
It’s hard to comprehend how Maria finds time to sleep, and a glance at her current moonlighting credentials suggests she simply doesn’t.
Maria is the chairperson for the Florida Association of Nonprofit Organizations and the Latino Center on Aging’s National Advisory Committee. She also sits on:
- The Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee for the American Heart Association
- The Policy and Planning Committee for the Health Council of South Florida
- The Volunteer Leadership Board for the American Cancer Society
These represent only a handful of the dozen-plus leadership positions that Maria holds at local, regional and national organizations working toward improved human welfare.
Since 2011, she’s been an ordained chaplain and minister, and she teaches a marketing, special events and media course at Nova Southeastern University and Broward College. She currently produces and co-hosts “Sin Fronteras,” (“Without Frontiers”) a weekly Spanish radio program focused on community service.
Maria says there’s no secret to her productivity–it all comes down to passion for helping others.
‘I Am Proud to Make a Difference’
“It’s my life really. That’s how I’m able to do so much: I don’t look at it as work,” Maria says. “I’m blessed to be able to interact with so many wonderful people.”
Maria embodies everything a volunteer services manager should: Compassion, selflessness and the ability to balance a schedule on a razor’s edge.
She lives the VITAS values, perhaps “I am proud to make a difference” most of all. Her impact on the company, her community and her peers is massive.
But Maria’s not shy about VITAS’ impact on her, from its culture of care to the mentors she’s met on the job.
“I want to give thanks for being a part of this incredible team of caring individuals who make up our VITAS family,” Maria says. “My career…has given me the privilege to work and volunteer in many special places with very special people for diverse causes.”